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Commentary & Analysis

The very last Drupa article (maybe)

You can learn a lot by just listening -

By Frank Romano
Published: June 27, 2008

You can learn a lot by just listening -- and taking notes. I went through my notebooks of the trip around the world and Drupa and found some items that were interesting (or not) but seemed important at the time. The number of business cards accumulated as I met with printers, media, and suppliers at Drupa is 398. The worldwide non-Drupa total is 623. Most are in languages I do not understand. Here are my notes, in no particular order.


The two most common words I saw on signs around the world: “copy” and “internet.”

I talked to a printer from Belgium who recently got an order for printing from China. The job required a level of color quality that the Chinese print buyer said was not available in China.

There are 100,000 printers in China, but the 800 or so largest account for about 40 percent of all printing.

Among China’s top 100 printers, 52 are foreign invested and 30 are in Guangdong.

There are 2,000 foreign-invested Chinese printing enterprises, with most in Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta.

A Vietnamese printer told me that his company was receiving jobs from China because their costs/prices were lower.

A printer in Malaysia told me they were receiving jobs from Vietnam because their prices were lower.

Vietnamese roads are clogged with scooters, bikes, cars, trucks, and water buffalo. Then I heard that they would have their own satellite for telecommunications. I would fix the roads first.

Thailand stopped shipping fish to another country for processing and packaging. Now they do both themselves, giving rise to a growing package printing industry.

There are 300,000 small printers worldwide -- one tenth in the US.

Half of the printing in Singapore is exported.

All those containers with products from China do not go back empty from the US. They are filled with waste paper for recycling.

A print buyer in Hong Kong told me about InnerWorkings (www.inwk.com), a print buying organization that claims average savings range from 10-20 percent relative to historical spend.

Every printer in every country that I visited said “We are unique.” “Why,” I asked. “Because we have price competition.”

I could never understand why the UK is the major source of imported printing to the US. Then I visited a book printer in India that sold books to university presses in the UK. The books are then trans-shipped to North America.

The two most common words I saw on signs around the world: “copy” and “internet.”

The most common thing I saw was large signage with color imagery. Hand-lettered signs are fading away.

Many suppliers say that 80 percent of their revenue is from products introduced in the last five years.

Over half of all plates in the world are digitally imaged.

India population is 1.16 Billion; China population is 1.3 Billion. The average age group is 25 years

In India there are 23 languages and 60 percent speak Hindi with 1,652 dialects; thus 1 in 3 speak English, making India the largest English-speaking country in the world.

If you speak two languages, you are bi-lingual, three languages or more, you are multi-lingual, and if you speak only one language you are an Englishman (old Indian joke).

In India you can be killed by a tiger or by lettuce (new Indian joke).

India’s investment in education is significant They will have the intellectual capital to advance.

But they also lack the gigawatts of electrical power required to sustain their growth.

One inkjet company said that inkjet ink was one fifth the cost of toner. I said that this was not reflected in that company’s pricing for inkjet ink.

So long as there is great art in Italy and the restriction on taking photos in galleries and museums, there will be a high-quality book printing industry.

When it comes to inkjet printing, just remember Single Pass Printing. It is an array of print heads positioned over the substrate that eliminates the movement of the heads.

One of the fastest growing printing markets -- one word: plastics.

Digital printing pushes volume downstream. Think of it -- the on demand concept reduces runs to the point where smaller presses/printers are applicable.

Muller Martini’s slogan was left out of my list: Grow with us. And EskoArtwork’s is: Connect more.

The Italian government announced a ban in the coming decade on all non-biodegradable packaging. Agro-industrial giant Ferruzzi announced a plastic suitable for packaging that is the world's first to be truly biodegradable.

Designers use either 4 colors or 400 colors.

Next big thing: bio inks and degradable vinyl.

The Spanish transpromo market is more mature than the UK, where transpromo spending accounts for only 3 percent of the annual UK market spend. Direct mail giant Dsi CMM said UK advertisers were missing out on an unexploited opportunity by not printing on the unused advertising space of bills and statements.

Look for more wider production inkjet printers. The maximum print width of a Versamark configuration is 60 inches, for instance.

VIGC, the Belgian research institute, tested spectrophotometers and discovered that all of them differed in repeatability and accuracy. So much for color management.

Sixty percent of all packaging is purchased by brand owners.

Seventy percent of all purchase decisions are made in the store.

A printer in Indianapolis bought a wide format inkjet printer from a US subsidiary of a company headquartered in Europe, but made in South Korea, with ink made in China.

Some Japanese wide format printers still use SCSI connectors.

GraphExpo is only three months away. Almost all the companies with new Drupa technologies will be in Chicago this October, but we have to see how many bring them to the American market. What will the exhibitors have to say? -- it has all been said at Drupa.

Frank Romano has spent over 50 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.

Please offer your feedback to Frank. He can be reached at frank@whattheythink.com.



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